Pictured above: Lopsided indiangrass (Sorghastrum secundum) by Katherine Edison. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.
Lopsided indiangrass (Sorghastrum secundum) is a robust and unique perennial bunchgrass. It occurs naturally in pinelands, sandhills and flatwoods, and typically blooms in late summer through fall. It is the larval host plant for the Delaware skipper, Dusted skipper and Swarthy skipper.
Throughout most of the year, Lopsided indiangrass is rather indistinct. But in late summer, it produces tall, dramatic flower spikes. Each tiny flower is wrapped in bracts that are covered in soft, bronze to brown hairs, and bears a long, twisted, reddish-brown awn and bright yellow anthers. When lit by the sun, the colorful flowerheads flicker and flash. The entire inflorescence occurs on one side of the rachis, hence the common descriptor “lopsided.” Leaves are dark green with long, tapering blades up to 18 inches long. Leaf sheaths are covered in fine hairs.
The genus name Sorghastrum literally translates to “poor imitation of Sorghum.” It is a combination of the genus Sorghum and the Latin suffix –astrum, meaning “expressing incomplete resemblance.” The species epithet secundum is from the Latin secundus, meaning “following,” “next” or (loosely) “in a row” and refers to the formation of flowers on one side of the rachis.
Family: Poaceae (also called Gramineae or true grasses)
Native range: Mostly throughout Florida
To see where natural populations of lopsided indiangrass have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8A–11
Soil: Moist to dry, well-drained soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 2–3′ feet; up to 6′ tall when flowering
Propagation: Seed, division
Garden tips: Lopsided Indiangrass is primarily recommended for naturalistic landscapes and habitat restorations. It can also be incorporated into a wildflower garden, but should be used in the background where its height (when flowering) won’t obscure other wildflowers. It will self-seed slowly and will need to be cut back annually.
Lopsided Indiangrass seeds are available through the Florida Wildflower Cooperative. Plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.